On the 5th floor of Iconsiam was a section set aside for local crafts people. They have a series of videos on facebook, with subtitles, that are great for explaining some of the work and the artisan involved. The one I have linked to here looks at embroidery which to me is very much influenced by Boro stitching from Japan. Variations on this kind of work was to be seen in other craft markets as well and was not cheap. I looked at buying a dress that was $260 but I didn't have enough cash with me and they didn't have a credit card machine.
These are some of the stitched bags I saw. I am looking at this is as a future class, maybe.
What I did buy from this floor were two small weaving frames for my grand-daughters.
The instructions are all in Thai, which isn't helpfull, but as they are simple looms I bought them anyway. I had seen lots of children working at looms when we visited the hill tribes, so I thought they would make a good craft activity for our Monday afternoons.
I thought I had better give it a try first and quickly came to the conclusion that I had better put this away until they are a little older. I had forgotten how you have to watch the edges, beat down the thread continually and lots of other little tricks.
(This is a mat for the dolls house.)
This little frame is only about 5cm x 4cm and I used almost 2 reels of old tapestry wool to do this much. I hate to think how much yarn I would need for the bigger frame. The bigger frame would be easier to use but would take a lot longer to finish. So I will pack them away for another day.
I can't say that I am fully recovered from all the viruses but my trip away has broken the terrible depression I was suffering. I find on opening the computer up again that I will need to get onto Mr Apple to get my email working and lots of other small things. It always amazes me that those 'small things' can take forever to fix.
So where do I start? I think the shopping mall next to the hotel would be a great place. I don't think I have ever seen a shopping mall that was so opulent yet still managed to retain a lot of the essence of Bangkok and Thai culture. (if you are really interested there is a video on You Tube that runs for 25mins, all in Thai, that will show you what it is like.)
I found lots of interesting things in there. On the ground floor was a floating food market, along with a traditional supermarket, that was very expensive.
I also found these embroidered straw bags.
This is an interesting use of this type of embroidery.
It was the portraits that really caught my eye.
And on closer inspection it was definately all hand worked not machined.
I hadn't expected to see something like this in Thailand. But then there was lots of things I saw that I wasn't expecting.
We are travelling home this afternoon and I must say that after the constant go, go, go I will be pleased to get on the plane. Not that I haven't enjoyed my time here but the constant pressure of people in your face all the time is just getting to me.
I had breakfast at the tea house in the block arcade. Only eggs on toast and a cup of tea. I left all those delicious cakes in the cabinet.
Some people actually had cake for breakfast!
I now need to get home and process everything I have seen and done.
I took the long drive up to Warwick yesterday to visit quilting friends who were staying at Glenrose House. It is in a lovely country location and they offer accommodation for quilting retreats and it has a great shop there as well. But I do have to drive there and back, 3 1/2 hours in each direction to get to and from the place. Seven hours of driving is a lot.
The drive took me through lots of traffic for over 1 1/2 hours, then I got out into the country side, along with a few big trucks, and then after a few glimpses, the border ranges suddenly come into view.
We have been bush walking up here and it always takes my breath away.
On this day I only had to deal with a few trucks on other days I haven't been so lucky. This road gives access to the New England Highway that runs all the way down to NSW and the big rigs are a constant hazzard.
Warwick is known for it's roses,
and the jumpers and jazz winter festival.
This was shopping and lunch day in town for my friends so it was back into the cars and into town. Country towns are always a bit different. In the fabric shop, which sells patchwork, dress and curtain fabrics, along with lots of other things I saw a sample for a Chicken Scratch Embroidery class. You can't buy that heavier weight gingham any more here that you can get in Europe so it was stitched on a light weight poly cotton. Not quite the same but the pattern was nice, they had even used the needle woven stars.
We had morning tea at Mamma Lucia's Patisserie where the cakes are to die for and they have all the national trophies they have won for baking on display.
Then more shopping and on to lunch at the garden centre. I did not buy one plant, I have to do something with the ones I have. But there were some beautiful flowers there.
I thought about this as a design for embroidery.
As to my own shopping, I was very restrained. Just 30cm (20") of each print for some more bags.
The latest research shows that the number one indicator of a long life is the support of friends. I am going to live forever!!!
I have finished the last design for my series of embroideries about Peace. But I'm not sure how this is going to stitch out, it could be great or a disaster. Actually, the last saying "Peace is in your hand" is probably the most forceful of all the embroideries in the sentiments it expresses.
I have these embroideries framed, ( in cheap frames) and hung on the wall behind my computer and there are one or two that I think need to be restitched. The designs are good but the choice of stitches selected is not. I think that is a job for the future. I will just be pleased to get them finished at this stage.
After I had designed this I sat down and made up one of the kits I bought in Houston from Odile Bailoeul.
I just love her fabric designs and this backed velvet is fantastic to sew. This is Hercule the cat. (Notice all the feet for my machine are back in the cabinet. I don't want to lose one again.)
The instructions that came with the kit are terrific. Her method of construction is so simple that I had the whole thing finished in under 20 minutes, I need to add a tassel on the zipper yet. Oh Dear! Reading her instructions again I find I have invented another way to construct a bag!I didn't follow her instructions at all!
This is one bag pattern I am going to add to my folio of bags. I will put together a little tutorial when I make the next one.
My visit to Guatemala was a bit like stepping out of the Tardis into another time zone.
The skills of people there is from a time long past in our Western Culture. I wondered why it was the women who mainly carried on these skills and kept their traditions? Our guide explained that the country had gone through a 36 year civil war, fueled by a number of different powers. The CIA from the USA, Castro from Cuba and local people who saw it as an opportunity to increase their power. The result of this was that a lot of the Mayan men were killed. You could be killed for wearing Mayan native dress, so the men stopped wearing it. That their culture has survived at all is remarkable considering the ethnic cleansing and killing that went on during that time.
But it does continue on and says a lot about the people, especially the women. Some of the blouses, or hupils, they wear look embroidered but they are actually a hand woven brocade. This piece that I purchased from a second hand market is an example of a brocade. The joins at the centre is embroidered, the rest of the design is woven. And, they memorise these patterns. The counting involved must drive them crazy. This is how brocade was made before machines. No wonder it was so expensive and prized and the weavers praised for their skills.
These skills were highly prized in Western Culture, starting about Byzantine times (it's use in Mayan culture predates this by thousands of years), and because the textiles were so expensive their distribution and access to the skill was controlled by those in power right up to the 1700,s. In 1804 Joseph Jacquard invented a machine that could be attached to a power loom and since then hand woven brocade has virtually disappeared from our culture. I saw one of these machines on display in Lyon, France years ago.
This hupil that I also purchased second hand, is embroidered. That is, the fabric is woven and then the design added with needle and thread.
It must have been stitched some time after 1950 because there is quite a bit of lurex thread being used. Mayan women 'love' glitter.
Outside one of the churches in Chichicastinango
I found a woman drawing the designs, free hand, onto fabric for embroiderers to add their threads.
I also found some pre-printed designs in a shop in the market.
This video from You Tube details the making of a hupil over 90 days. It has been filmed in the very places I have just visited and shows in detail the whole process. The shop where Manuela buys her threads is the same shop where I bought mine and the Textile Museum is the same one where I watched this young woman warp up her loom.
If you want to see a more in-depth explanation of weaving and embroidery in Mayan culture there is an excellent documentary called "Century of Color: Maya Weaving & Textiles (English)" It is nearly an hour in length and is very comprehensive in it's coverage of the topic. Now it is time to step back into my imaginary time machine. I need to return to today's world and pick up the threads of my life again. I wonder if Dr Who and his time travellers felt like I do now? A bit of regret at leaving, excitement at my return, nostalga about what was. But now the future calls.
I bought a lot of threads while I was away. Starting in the USA where I was seduced by the Wonderfil stand at the Houston show. I like this thread for use on the sewing machine. My Bernina dealer has a limited range and I normally wait for the quilt shows in Brisbane to stock up. This stall had the lot including some lovely colour in Perle 8. After I bought it I realised that it is Sue Sprago's thread. There is 5 grams on each ball and I don't see it on her web page so it must be new. I also bought some of the Eleganza thread.
Then I really got carried away in Guatemala. Starting with the cotton threads. It is the colours that did it.
This thread is just a little thicker than 1 strand of stranded cotton and it has a slightly higher twist. (The white thread is the stranded cotton.) I have no idea how it will work in an embroidery but if it doesn't suit I can make tons of tassels.
Then there was the silk threads. (I did test it to see if it was rayon but no, it was silk.) Again, wonderful colours, but no twist to the thread.
I'm not sure how I will use this.
Then there were a couple of boxes of Perle 8, 5 grams in each spool at about $1 per spool.. And I love these colours.
My Turkish thread has 8 grams on each spool ($3.50) and DMC ($8.99) and Anchor ($10) have 10gs on theirs so the Guatemalan thread was a lot cheaper.
The other thread I bought is used for weaving Ikats. It is dyed then ove-rdyed after the pattern is selected. They place the thread on a frame and then tie one of the about 10 different squences that are used.
When the ties are removed from the black the pink colour will show through in bands.
The woven piece will look something like this,
I have no idea what the result will be if I use it for embroidery. Lots of adventures ahead here.
I think I am back on planet earth again. After arriving home the proverbial hit the fan and I was flat out just getting through each day.
The grandchildren were so eager to get their gifts, so they were first on the list. Then I had to visit all the family and distribute their gifts. Next came my quilting buddies and my daughter had to fly away to another job and I had to get the dog and fix the apartment for while she was away. Then I had an assignment to write. It was on a subject I know far too much about so I had to cut and cut my word count. Then I just fell asleep and slept for 24 hours. I hope the body clock is now back in sync. OH. I forgot the washing. I haven't got to the housework as yet.
For my quilting buddies I bought fabric in the USA that I was going to make into 'mug rugs' for them. That was until I made one.
Then I decided they would 'much prefer' to make their own. So I packed up some kits for them and 'showed' them the sample I had made.
I hope they have fun making these. I have another lot of kits I have to put together for my friends up at Toowoomba but that is not for a week or so.
I also got the painting I bought in Guatemala back on a wooden frame and up on the wall. I carried this rolled in a piece of plumbing tubing all the way back home, cursing it all the way. but I am so pleased with it now.
But first I have to organise my work room. What a mess! I have a list of projects that have to be finished before everything breaks up for Xmas. OMG, Xmas. I had forgotten about that.
Well I'm home again after my month on the road. I'm tired and a bit jet-lagged and my mind is full of all the sights, sounds and experiences of the last 4 weeks. I have to sort through all my notes, organise my photos and get all the information into some sort of order so that I can move on.
So what was the one most outstanding event of the trip? Well there were so many that it is hard to pick but I personally liked meeting the Embroideress in the markets at Solola, Guatamala. I saw lots of women who spun and wove but she was one of the few I found who stitched. I saw lots of embroidered garments and there were lots of women buying threads and patterns but she was the only one actually stitching. Her long hair was wrapped with ribbons and lace and she was beautiful.
There she was in the market and as an embroiderer I appreciated the skill with which she plied her needle. All of the hand woven fabrics are produced from back-strap looms. This means that there really isn't enough width to the fabric to construct a garment. So traditionally this was overcome by embroidering lengths together. (The same as you see with faggoting.)
They use a frame which is about 1" in depth and the tension is balanced by a spring, rather than tightened with a screw in the European way. The needle is huge by our standard but the fabric they embroiderer on is a lot thicker than what we are used to. In the past the best garments were embroidered with silk but commercial rayon thread is used a lot today.
The stitching that she was engaged in was for the traditional skirt. I bought a second hand fabric length stitched in this same manner.
Although this piece had been stitched with cotton thread. The different patterns used today have become somewhat of a fashion statement with the women and all the different groups use different patterns. When you see the finished pieces on display, like those in the image below, it is easy to forget that a woman, like my embroideress, actually sat and stitched them.
I found that the quality of the embroidery was far better in the older pieces of work and I fear that as technology and the Western world influences the Mayan culture hand embroidery will be replaced by the machine and people like my embroideress will fade away and no longer be part of this rich culture.
This is my last night in Antigua. Tomorrow I am moving inland to the lakes in the highlands. It has been an interesting few days filled with new sights, sounds, tastes and emotions.
One old love I have revisited is horse riding. And boy have I found lots of lost muscles. The knees have had a work out as well. We went up to visit a volcano and getting up the mountain involved either walking or riding a horse. I took the horse.
The getting onto the horse was a bit of a challenge but once on I was able to get on and off without too much trouble. I just made sure that I was near a rock or a wall. The other challenge was the saddle, which was wooden. Actually, the horses name was Carmello and he had a great temperament. He knew the way and only tried to get away on the way up not the way down. That was because he got fed at the top and was looking forward to that. Coming down the mountain the track was narrow and very close to the edge of the precipice. I just looked ahead and prayed.
The ash field around the volcano was just like the description of Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings. The dust and smell of sulphur stung the throat but the views were fantastic.
I have not been neglecting my textile study either. The following images are a selection of the embroidered hupils or blouses that I have been photographing. They are all hand stitched and the amount of work that goes into each one is amazing. Like most of South America Guatemala has a strong tradition of backstrap weaving and everywhere you go women are working at the loom.
The above image is really interesting because it depicts the same scenes that are seen in Mayan sculptures.
I think one of my favourite images is of the flower seller. She has taken flowers from the jungle and is selling them on the streets.
I may not be able to post for a while as I don’t think there is much internet where I am heading but there will be lots of adventures.